1. Stars can help deliver team chemistry.
How elite players act, whether they encourage teammates after a mistake, whether they look to give a teammate an easy basket on the break, whether they help out on the screen, makes a big impact on teams.
Chaminade (St. Louis) is a good example. Jayson Tatum is obviously a leader. He doesn’t make faces at bad plays and he doesn’t have to have the ball to stay involved in the offense. Monday, he started slowly with 2-of-8 shooting in the first half for four points, but by the game’s end he had 25 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks to lead the Red Devils to an 88-78 defeat of Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.).
“The first half I was struggling with turnovers and couldn’t buy a basket, but I was rebounding pretty well,” said Tatum, a 6-9 junior forward. “The other guys on the team picked it up and gave me a chance in the second half and then I started scoring some points.”
Three other teams that have the chemistry to go a long way were No. 9 Villa Angela-St. Joseph (Cleveland), which nearly toppled No. 2 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.); No. 16 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.); and No. 19 Archbishop Carroll (Philadelphia).
When the chemistry isn’t there, as it wasn’t with Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) or Our Savior New American (Centereach, N.Y.), it’s obvious.
“Sometimes on this team, we lack a little bit of chemistry,” said Bishop Gorman forward Chase Jeter, a Duke signee. “It’s definitely something we need to work on.”
2. I’m really looking forward to that Oak Hill-Findlay Prep battle in April
The top two teams in the country right now didn’t disappoint. No. 1 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and Oak Hill have enough depth to overcome most teams. Each has a roster of talented, rangy guys and at least one lights-out scorer willing to take the big shot. Arizona signee Allonzo Trier plays that role for Findlay and Florida State signee Dwayne Bacon is always willing to fill it up for Oak Hill.
The problem is, like the top two heavyweights, they will be forced to spend this season trying to knock off all the other challengers. The way they’re playing right now, however, look for them to meet at the Dick’s Nationals in New York in April.
3. These three under-the-radar guys shined.
Sacred Heart’s Mustapha Heron, a 6-6 junior forward who has committed to Pittsburgh, is a tough battler and had 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in his team’s 64-51 defeat of Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) on Friday.
Archbishop Carroll’s Derrick Jones, a 6-7 senior forward headed to UNLV, has an exceedingly high motor that will serve him well at the next level. He took a good Simeon team apart, living in the paint.
Malik Ellison, the son of 10-season NBA pro Pervis Ellison, will be a great wing for somebody.
4. Carlton Bragg will fit in well at Kansas
Bragg, a senior for Villa Angela-St. Joseph, recently committed to Kansas. Because he does so many things well, he should be able to find his niche with the Jayhawks next season.
On Monday, he had 23 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and six assists, the last a pretty impressive stat for a 6-10 forward.
“Their chemistry and how they play together, their style of play, fits mine,” Bragg said. “Right now, I am focusing on my high school team and winning the state championship.”
5. Ivan Rabb taking a serious look at two Cals
Bishop O’Dowd 6-11 forward Ivan Rabb came up big with 25 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in a 79-70 defeat of No. 3 Wheeler (Marietta). He was dominant yet efficient, missing only four of 15 shots. From reading between the lines, it sounds like his top two schools are Kentucky, coached by John Calipari, and California, coached by Cuonzo Martin. He said he is especially close to Martin.
“Him being so close, I can go up there and work out if I want,” Rabb said. “I can go talk to players and go up there and do whatever I want. I like it because it’s like 15 minutes from my home, and I enjoy that part of the campus.”
Rabb also hinted that while he’s attracted to Calipari’s record of turning preps into pros, he may want to stay close to home.
“Eventually, I will be able to play in the NBA if I continue to work hard and stay healthy and injury free, so that’s part of my decision,” he said. “Again if I go to the NBA, I may not be able to be near home, so that’s part of my decision at the same time.”